Nonprofit Grounded in Grace Community (801-745-9557, GiGCommunity.com) is hosting a “Triangle of Empowerment” retreat in Eden, Utah, on Oct. 3 & 4 for men and women. Poet, playwright and author Carol Lynn Pearson is its keynote speaker.
You live to write, it seems. Where does inspiration come from?
I observe what’s happening in my life and in the lives of people around me and, of course, some of the pressing social issues obvious to me and most people. I do have a pretty rich inner life that does involve meditation.
When those things come together, there appears a project that seems to have my name on it. Often, it’s the ending of that project, like a punch line or the last line in a poem, or where the play Facing East is finally gonna take us. That’s the inspiration. I think, “Yeah, I need to do something that will get me and hopefully others to that point.”
And then it’s just a matter of discipline, it is just a matter of taking time to sit down and say, “Right now, I am going to do nothing else” and forget about writer’s block—especially if, like me, you just barely earn a living by doing your writing, you don’t have the luxury of writer’s block. There’s always just one project or another that I have enough enthusiasm about that that’s never a problem.
Many claim to have a book inside them. What’s the best way to dig it out?
You have to believe that your book is important. And it better be more important than all the trees that are going be cut down to make it, which not all books are. My brother is fond of saying, “That book would have been much better left as a tree.”
Honestly, when people write to me, I always encourage them to go ahead and write their book, no matter what comes of it. If it does not get published, at least you will know on your deathbed, “Hey, I did that.” Even if it’s something that you’ve self-published to give to a hundred friends and family, that’s something that they will treasure.
The act of writing is enormously important for one’s soul to be able to put into words all of the things you’re thinking about, no matter if they turn out. Just the act of writing helps you get clear on who you are and how you’re thinking.
Then sit down and be disciplined. Lots of people have a book they want to write but they don’t have the dedication to say, “All right, this is the block of time every day or three times a week that I am going to do nothing else but work on the book.”
And, of course to get enthusiasm from other people is a very helpful thing. Maybe go to a conference. Mark Victor Hansen is the Chicken Soup for the Soul guru who knows everybody and has excellent people at his weekend conferences. To have a fire lit under you by attending a conference is sometimes very valuable.
What’s your cure for writer’s block?
Go for a walk and put away the problem that’s concerning you. And then, just often, out of the blue, without even making an effort, as I’m walking along, some subconscious door will open and I think, “Well, yeah, that’s the way to do it.”
You’ve had a dream come true to have your play Facing East produced Off Broadway. Any unexpected highlights?
I remember when I was in New York, I got an e-mail from a lesbian in Utah who said, “Thank you for saving the life of my partner.” The woman’s partner was truly on the brink of ending her life over her conflict between her homosexuality and her LDS religion and family. The day that she went to the play, there was an audience discussion afterwards. She asked a question, and she was clearly so distressed. The woman who e-mailed me remembered that I left the stage and went over and hugged her partner, and I told her to hang on, that things were going to get better, and I was counting on her to shine brightly. The e-mail said that seeing the play that night and my hug and the words that were said saved her partner. Now, it doesn’t get any better than that. I know the play has healed untold numbers of families and probably saved more lives than one.
What were your challenges getting the play staged?
This project seemed to have been graced by whatever angels are assigned to these projects because it happened very, very smoothly. As soon as I had the idea and let it mull around for a while, I told [Plan B Theatre Company director] Jerry Rapier, and he said, “I want to see it as soon as it’s done.” So I just blocked off a couple of months and wrote the play. I just dove in and wrote the scenes that were ripe and wrote backwards and forwards. Then I had a reading in Utah. Jerry and his board and Bruce Bastion were there, and it just took off. There are a lot of things whose time has come. Clearly, the issues of religion and homosexuality are here to stay until we get them solved. I’m grateful that I have been given a voice and experience in order to make my contribution to that.
You’ve made a name for yourself as an author who sheds light on the gay Mormon experience. Has the LDS Church ever given you an official response to your work?
No. Which is, of course, a good thing. For a writer to get an official response from the Mormon church would be a very bad, bad thing. I have not been chastised in any way—which is not to stay I have not been watched carefully. I am sure that is true. My local leaders, my bishops, my stake presidencies have always been very kind, not only respectful but very appreciative of my work. When Facing East was in San Francisco, my stake president and former bishop were both there with their wives and allowed me to invite the local leadership, the high council, the various bishops and Relief Society presidents. By the time the run was done here, there were dozens of church leaders from my stake who had gone, and I received only appreciation.
As you are a resident of California, how do you feel about the LDS Church’s support of Proposition 8, which, if passed, will outlaw same-sex marriage currently allowed in the state?
I don’t have any official involvement with it. I recently wrote an editorial in The Salt Lake Tribune pointing out the ongoing tremendous pressure that we put on gay people, especially in terms of so many that are driven to suicide. I am giving my opinion here where I feel they can be helpful. I’m sad to see the tremendous divisiveness that this thing is causing among LDS Californians.
If you could have a personal audience with church leaders about the church’s stance on homosexuality, what you say to them?
I occasionally write letters, and I generally receive answers that “We appreciate receiving this.” Everything that I’ve been writing, everything in my book No More Goodbyes, has exactly what I would say to all the General Authorities. Last fall, I signed a book with a letter to every General Authority, and I sent the book to them. I have already expressed to them all the things that I feel about homosexuality, which is, in general, that we need to be doing far, far more than we are.
Do you foresee a day when the church will welcome gay couples?
I am hoping for a time when there will be a place at the table for committed gay couples. When that might be, who knows? All the huge energy going on around Prop 8 is going to put any possibility back considerably. But I am open to surprises.
You’re appearing at a conference in Eden, Utah, this weekend. What will you be speaking about?
I am giving a scaled-down readers’ theater version of Mother Wove the Morning. It’s a one-woman play that I have done over 300 times. I play 16 women throughout history in search of God the Mother, which is still—until we figure out how to invite her back into our consciousness—a vital issue.
I am also speaking on synchronicity. It is a phenomenon that I have studied a great deal and written about. The hardback was called Consider the Butterfly. It is now out in paperback and called Embracing Coincidence. It tells 44 of my personal stories of experiencing this wonderful phenomenon of the magic of coincidences.
My specialty is seeing them as metaphorical meaning. Just like the symbols in a dream, they invite us to consider something in our life that is important, to encourage us that we are in the right place at the right time, sometimes they make us laugh.
In my diary, I write down every synchronicity. I have for about 10 years now. So I have thousands in my diary. Just little tiny ones or some really significant ones. The more you notice them, as you write them down and talk about them, you invite more. Deepak Chopra insists that as you observe them and take them seriously and write them down that not only do you see more because you’re more attuned to seeing them but that you actually create more.
So what will people come away with?
Seeing Mother Wove the Morning, they will come away with a renewed passion that the well being of our human family is dependent on acknowledging our need for the divine feminine.
From my talk on synchronicity, I’m sure people will go away thinking, “Wow, I forgot this happened to me. Let me remember and take it seriously and see if it has some meaning for me.” And not only that, but to look at the overarching experiences of their lives, which I’ll address in my talk—not just daily little moments that grab us and surprise us—but the themes of our lives. If we can look at the themes that we’re developing, we can better participate in them.
I will go into a theme that my life has clearly shown me, which is validating femaleness in a world that does not. There was a time when writing Goodbye I Love You that I wrote, “So here I am. Seemingly, God, certainly my church, and now my husband all prefer men.” And that, in the context of my having come here, was an extraordinary feminist consciousness. Those are synchronistic platforms that I think many of us can identify with as we examine our lives.
We are not victims to a random life that seems to have no meaning. Backstage, there is a lot of meaning going on. The threads behind the tapestry are all connected. By being alert, we can observe and work with them and let that magic help us. We can have confidence that life is this awesome, meaningful pool of creativity—not by accident or by anybody’s doctrinal explanation—and we’re to live in the magic, to believe in it, and to watch it and participate in it.